While it once seemed like a formality that Deandre Ayton would be returning to the Phoenix Suns, that's not the case anymore. A recent report suggests that's far from a done deal, and the San Antonio Spurs have been named as a potential landing spot for the coveted free agent center.
Earlier this month, I wrote about how the Suns would be willing to go deep into the luxury tax to retain Ayton as long as they saw themselves as a contender for championships. At the time, it seemed like they were well on their way to another Western Conference Finals and potentially another NBA Finals.
Following their recent embarrassing Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, a lot has changed around the Ayton saga, which was further advanced by the confrontation he had with Head Coach Monty Williams in the Suns' final game. Suddenly, the vibe started to shift from "he'll be back" to "he'll be fine wherever he lands."
The Suns may not match a max offer for Ayton
Since Ayton is a restricted free agent, the Suns could retain him by matching any offer sheet he signs from another team. In his column Tuesday morning, Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer revealed there's skepticism among league executives that Phoenix would match a max offer from another team.
Given that Phoenix didn't extend a max offer to their center before he even hit free agency, this isn't hard to believe. There's clearly some hesitation in making Ayton their starting center for the foreseeable future for that amount.
According to Fischer, the three teams most often linked by league personnel to poach Deandre are the Hawks, Pistons, and Trail Blazers. But "multiple team executives also pointed to Charlotte and San Antonio as possible landing spots for Ayton," he reports.
The report goes on to say Ayton is "not particularly a favorite of Monty Williams" due to his focus level on the court, leading to decreased playing time. "There's a stronger sense among league figures that Phoenix brass simply does not view Ayton as a player worth greater than $30 million annually."
Deandre Ayton would be a perfect fit with the Spurs
While his postseason performance didn't exactly showcase his skills to the fullest, there's no question Ayton would be a great fit in San Antonio. The Spurs have been in need of an athletic big for a long time now, and the unlikely acquisition of him would be a gamechanger for the rest of the young core.
Ayton put up 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season, which marks the fourth year in a row he's averaged a double-double. Pairing him alongside one of the best passers in the league in Dejounte Murray, who's fresh off the biggest jump in his NBA career, should be enough for the Spurs to at least peak their heads out of purgatory.
It wouldn't take too much work to get Ayton to San Antonio if he wanted to venture down there. It's going to be an interesting sweepstakes for Ayton this summer, and I expect things to start heating up even more around him very soon.